Following a few well-received shows in the U.S. and Australia over the past few months, Billy Joel will kick off a tour of the U.K. on Tuesday -- his first in seven years. The Piano Man says he's ready to "get back in the saddle,” having kicked what he calls a "deep depression" that, he says, was sparked by the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
"I was in New York on 9/11, and it had a devastating impact on me,” he tells the British paper The Telegraph . "It hit me like a ton of bricks. I went into a deep depression and started drinking. I lost faith in humanity.”
In fact, the issue was serious enough to send him into treatment twice: in 2002 and again in 2005. But these days, Billy says, he's doing better. Asked what restored his faith in humanity, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has a surprising answer.
"That girl who was shot by the Taliban," he says, referring to Malala Yousafzai , the Pakistani teen who was targeted for assassination by the Taliban because she spoke out in favor of women's education. "She is the antidote," he continues. "We need people like that. I get inspired by people like that.”
What doesn't inspire Billy, however, is pop music. He has no desire to put out another pop album, even though it's been two decades since his last one, River of Dreams .
"Just because I can put out albums and the record company would release them and people would buy them, that don’t mean I should,” he explains. “I got bored writing popular music. I just got tired of writing in the same format: it can’t be too long, it’s got to be played on the radio. It’s a box, and after a while that box becomes a coffin.”
So why return to the stage and perform his pop hits for two hours a night? "I don’t sit around saying, ‘Gee I miss the adulation, I want the applause,'” he explains. “But what I do miss is making music with other musicians...I want to do these dates and see how it feels to get back in the saddle.”
It appears that a full-blown U.S. tour may follow the U.K. dates. Billy's just confirmed that he'll perform January 7 in Sunrise, Florida; tickets go on sale November 2.
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